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Boys On The Side

Updated on August 24, 2010

Until a few years ago, I had never heard of this movie. It was only when I randomly saw the soundtrack for the film, featuring some artists I like (The Cranberries, the Indigo girls, who actually have a cameo in the film). After spotting this movie on the racks at Hollywood Video when they were liquidating their stock, I decided I might as well check it out, so I snapped it up. Boy am I glad I did.

The film concerns Jane (Whoopi Goldberg), a down-on-her-luck bar singer who's planning on going to LA who sees an ad in the paper for someone looking for company on a trip to the West Coast. This other person turns out to be Robin (Mary Louise Parker), a real estate agent who's looking to start over in San Diego. Jane is doubtful about whether she would mix well with the much squarer Robin, but finally reluctantly agrees to go along.

In Pittsburg they drop in on a friend of Jane's named Holly (Drew Barrymore), who's having a fight with her abusive drug dealer boyfriend, Nick. Holly gives Nick a whack on the back of the head during the fight, and while when they leave Nick is still alive, they soon find out he died of the head injury Holly gave him.

Frightened, the three women decide to press on to the West Coast, hoping they won't be caught. However, a sudden medical emergency in Tucson finds them deciding to stay there and make a life for themselves. The rest of the film is a study of the three characters' relationships with one another, particularly Jane and Robin, as well as the consequences of Holly's actions.

I really liked this movie. All three leads are fantastic, but Mary Louise Parker as Robin deserves special acclaim. Parker usually plays characters with more than one level, but Robin took the cake--who she appears to be at the end and who she turns out to be are radically different people. She's able to seem strong in one scene and fragile in another, funny and sad, angry and loving, all at once. She is fascinating every second she is on screen. Her chemistry with Whoopi Goldberg is also amazing, as the two together really illuminate the complexities of their respective characters. Matthew McConaughey, as a Tucson police officer that Holly falls in love with, is also worth noting, a totally straight-edged guy who is a complete contrast to the wild and free-spirited Barrymore's character.

This story has secrets. As it goes along, it reveals to the viewer surprising things, mostly to do with Parker's character. that were totally unexpected. I liked that about it, how it had complexities and nuances that revealed themselves over time.

I also loved the depiction of Tucson. The sun-drenched streets and adobe houses called out to me, making the city seem both exotic and intriguing. It made me really want to go there someday.

All in all, a great movie. If you like any of the three main actors, or if you just want a great film centered on three very interesting women, you should check it out if you come across it.   

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